Irish survivor of clerical abuse, Marie Collins, has said all those who stood by and stayed silent about the abuses perpetrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick “are complicit and should be called to explain themselves”.
Speaking to The Tablet, Ms Collins, who resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017 over curial resistance to recommendations put forward by the Commission said, “The facts about McCarrick were well known among his peers, men in high positions themselves yet no one called a halt to his rise and rise to the position of Cardinal.”
She said the case of Cardinal McCarrick showed up the “many weaknesses” in the structure of the Church. “The overwhelming level of reverence and awe which is given to titles in the Church makes men in high office seem outside the rules of behaviour expected of lesser mortals,” she claimed.
She blamed clericalism, and a fear that if the truth is admitted then the entire edifice of the Church would crumble, for the pretence that such men are incapable of mistakes, or immoral or criminal acts. This, she warned, leads to unchallenged abuses.
“Men like McCarrick depend on this aura of power and disproportionate reverence to get away with behaving as they like confident that no one will challenge them.”
Of the American Church’s claim that it operates a policy of “zero tolerance” on abuse, Collins highlighted that the US safeguarding policy does not apply to bishops or cardinals, which she said “makes a mockery of the claim”.
“The explanation may well be because there are no provisions in canon law to hold these men in the higher echelons of the Church to account. Surely this means there is a need for change in canon law, not an exclusion from accountability.”
Referring to Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s recent acknowledgment of the lack of policy or procedures in the Church to hold members of the hierarchy accountable for their actions and the need for this to be addressed, Ms Collins said that while she was a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors such an accountability process was put forward in 2015 by the Commission.
“Despite being approved by Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Muller refused to put it in place.”
At that time, Cardinal O’Malley and the Commission did nothing to make this known to the public or to protest the refusal and seek to ensure the policy was implemented, she said, and questioned why there was no appetite to fight then for what was needed.
“I resigned in order to be able to protest and make it known that the Vatican had quashed this accountability initiative. Now we see it being spoken of again as if it was a new idea. Will it happen or will it be forgotten when the McCarrick issue falls out of the headlines,” she asked.
Last Friday, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals and directed the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.
The process will investigate a credible allegation of child sexual abuse against the Cardinal which was made public in June. Since then, other allegations have emerged of sexual misconduct with seminarians.